ANTIQUE * EARLY 1900'S *
VERY RARE * UNIQUE * JAPANESE *
KOMAI WARE AND MOTHER OF PEARL BOX *
WITH SQUARE GRID BODY *
5.5"W x 4.25"D x 2.25"H
This piece comes from my paternal grandmother who was born in 1896. She was a jeweler who specialized in enameling and silversmithing. She was fortunate enough to be able to collect enamel pieces from all periods of time and from places all over the world. This box may have been a gift to her from her brother, born in 1894, who lived overseas most of his life working, travelling and collecting everything imaginable.
As summarized by an appraiser, the box "is very interesting and rare, a mother of pearl and komain 'mixed metal' square grid body, Japanese, from the early 20th Century. Beautiful contrast."
The .75" x .75" squares of Komai ware and mother of pearl are mounted, most likely glued, to a wooden box. There are 10 Komai ware squares each depicting different images. The remaining top and sides are "square grid" cut pieces of mother of pearl. The metal used in the Komai inlay is gold, silver and copper wire. The box measures 5.5"W x 4.25"D x 2.25"H.
The pictures, including traditional Japanese motifs, depicted are:
1.A Temple On a Lake With a Bridge, Tress and Mountains
2.Grapes With Leaves
3.A Bird In Leaves
4.Elaborate Japanese Minka, (estate home on a lake), with a backdrop of Mt. Fuji.
6.A Crane With A Full Moon And Clouds
7.Upside Down Square of a Man Standing by a Lake, With a Temple and Mountains
10. A Second, more simple, Japanese Minka, (estate home on a lake), with a backdrop of Mt. Fuji.
Note: Originally, the box was lined in decomposing red satin material and dark green felt on the bottom. Presently, the interior is painted to complement the exterior, but it can be easily removed. (The interior top is white with gold sides and a silver bottom. The bottom is white with silver sides and top.) Two pieces of black felt are included which can be used for the interior of the box and to be glued onto the wooden bottom if so desired.
Please feel free to email me with any questions. Thank you!
Note: an additional $12.50 for Priority Mail Shipping is added to the total cost. Tradesy receives a 14.9% commission per item.
It is believed that damascene was brought to Japan about 2,000 years ago, reputedly form Damascus, through Korea. In the course of time, Japanese craftsmen became skilled in its manufacture, and sword handles, helmets and other articles were adorned.
In 1855, the Komai family originated a form of damascene used to ornament swords and other types of artifacts, for which the family gained the highest respect for their fine decorative metalwork during the Meiji period (1869 - 1912). The Komai family held the office of sword-mounters to the Japanese court for over seven years. After changes brought about by the Meiji restoration in 1868, the Samurai were no longer allowed to openly wear swords, so the Komai family sought another form of livelihood, and began redirecting their damascene craft to creating objects for use by the upper class. Typically one sees cigarette cases, since smoking was quite popular, brooches, and bracelets of linked panels....
Japanese metalwork, technically and artistically, has been unrivaled by that of other cultures, with no country or culture reaching the level of work seen by the Japanese sword-smith. Fabricated utilizing a very difficult process of metalwork, Komai ware typically had a matte black base of iron or steel. The designs were then etched into the base metal by a fine needle-pointed tool, and were then inlaid with precious metals such as silver and gold, to highlight the intricate designs and were highly coveted from the Meiji period on.
Some of the traditionally used motifs were: bamboo, birds flying overhead, a Yoshino Village scene, a blooming cherry tree with birds, and a traditional Japanese Minka, (estate home on a lake), with a backdrop of Mt. Fuji. Each solid panel has visual elements that are inlaid with gold and silver on an iron base.
From "Their Japan"
by Frederic De Garis, 1936, Yoshikawa publisher, Bentendori, Yokahama
"A design, first drawn on a piece of tissue paper, is placed over the metal surface and traced with a fine chisel into the metal---then removed. The outlines thus cut are undercut for times crosswise and four times diagonally (hatched) to produce something like a silken texture. Into these minute grooves, gold or silver threads almost as find as cobwebs are hammered, and a deer-horn hammer is used to smooth the surface and tamp down rough thread edges. The article is then placed in a cabinet and made to corrode by the use of nitrate acid, which later is removed with soda water. When dry, it is washed twice in weak salt water and baked over a fire. Eight or nine times a day for a period of five days in summer and seven in winter, the article is washed and baked un